Chemotherapy is an aggressive treatment for cancer, that targets rapidly growing cancer cells. Cancer is a horrible illness to suffer from and treatments don’t always work. To make things worse the best available treatment for cancer, chemotherapy, has a high chance of causing hair loss. This hair loss will most likely be temporary and will grow back once the treatment course has been completed. Suffering from hair loss while trying to battle cancer, can be the toughest part for some people. Hair loss serves as a visible reminder of the illness they are suffering and can make it obvious to other people as well.
It isn’t a guarantee that chemotherapy will cause hair loss and will depend on the exact chemotherapy treatment being used for the specific type of cancer. It is also dependent on how your body reacts to the drug. A certain chemotherapy drug can cause hair loss in some people, but not in others. So why does the treatment cause hair loss? The drug treatment targets all rapidly dividing cells in the body. This includes both cancer cells, but also the cells that produce our hair follicles. Hair follicles are in fact one of the fastest growing cells in the body. An unfortunate side effect of the treatment, but a side effect most of us will happily suffer from to treat and beat cancer.
Once the chemotherapy treatment has been started most people will see their hair loss develop within around 2-3 weeks. If hair loss is seen it can happen in a variety of ways. It may be gradual with an increase in shedding while brushing or washing your hair. For some the hair loss can be a lot more sudden and more devastating. Clumps of hair may fall all together leaving a very patchy look.
How are the best ways to cope with this hair loss?
For men and women, it is popular to completely shave off or keep hair very short. Many will cut their hair short at the very first sign of chemotherapy induced hair loss to stay ahead and prevent an unnatural look. For men this short hair cut style can be easy to pull off, but understandably for women this can be a hard transition to make. Head covers, scarves and wigs are all affordable and practical solution to help cover the hair loss seen. If the hair loss is mild, then hair loss cosmetics such as fibres or cover up sprays can work well as well.
To keep hair in the best condition possible it is recommended to try and use a mild shampoo to avoid irritation. It is also advisable to avoid using any hot styling tools on your hair as well.
At the moment there are no additional treatments that can prevent the chemotherapy drugs from causing hair loss for everyone. However there are some people that can benefit from using a cold cap or scalp cooling cap. These cooling caps work by lowering the temperature of the scalp and therefore reduce the blood flow. These caps don’t have a 100% success rate and can be uncomfortable to use. To get the most out of the treatment, the cold cap is worn before, during and after the chemotherapy treatment.
Thankfully for most of us, our hair will grow back over time once the treatment has finished. When it does grow back it is not uncommon for the colour, density and texture of the hair to be different from before the chemotherapy.
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